Date of Award

May 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Dr. Elizabeth Baldwin

Committee Member

Dr. Matthew Brownlee

Committee Member

Daniel Harding

Committee Member

Paul Russell


Since the advent of the Mountain Bike in the 1970’s, forest and wildland recreation by bike has been growing as a form of exercise, competition and generally a form of wellness and connection to nature. Management related to bike recreation has traditionally characterized this group as one segment of users. As more areas are being developed and existing areas are growing user groups related to bike recreation the differences in types and ways that people engage in bike recreation is evident. Understanding these changes at multiple scales (temporal, spatial, social, and restorative health), along with drivers and impacts are important for the management of any recreation area in order to manage for the complexity of bike recreation. This research focused on an area that has seen growth and change in biking in a forest environment associated with a major public Land Grant University, Clemson University. The Clemson Experimental Forest (CEF) is a 17,000 plus acre multiple use forest managed by Clemson University for timber harvesting, and is used for many types of recreation by both a University affiliated population and the community in the region at large. While originally slated to be used as area for restoration of agricultural wastelands from the 1930s, the CEF today is also a hub for many types of outdoor recreation. This study focused on the growth of one of those activities, bike recreation. In an effort to understand the context for recreation in the forest generally, seventy-one surveys were collected from March 2019-2020 from people at key trailheads to address patterns and establish a way to identify key decision leaders, or informants, in the bike recreation community. Interviews were conducted with seven key informants about bike recreation in the CEF, in an effort to build knowledge about the complexity of the bike recreation in this setting. Findings from the surveys indicated that bike recreation is a frequent recreational activity at the key trailheads, and at these key trailheads many people participating in recreation in the University Forest are not affiliated with the University. The interviews with managers and key informants suggested that users come from both the local and outside the local community due to word of mouth, the increase in recreational group use and technology supporting trail location for recreation generally and bike use specifically. Both groups of interviewees mentioned the growth of bike recreation in terms of sheer numbers and also the growth of group use and reasons for biking in the CEF. The interviews also indicated that issues regarding safety often relate to gender, that biking can be identity building, and issues of social justice are addressed through bike recreation. These results indicate that the complexity of reasons and experiences people engage in bike recreation cannot be managed as if it is a single user group. Therefore, this study points to the value in managers of natural areas, seeing a growth of bike recreation, look for complexity and ways to manage for this diversity of users so that more people might see this as a possible way to engage with natural areas.



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